Haney’s plan for Homeless Commission faces close vote

The Board of Supes will vote next Tuesday on a Charter Amendment that would create a Homelessness Commission, setting up a fall ballot campaign over a plan that Mayor Breed at this point opposes.

The Board of Supes will vote next Tuesday on a Charter Amendment that would create a Homelessness Commission, setting up a fall ballot campaign over a plan that Mayor Breed at this point opposes.

The measure would move the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing out of the Mayor’s Office and put it under the new commission. Three of the seven commissioners would be appointed by the mayor, three by the supes, and one by the controller.

Matt Haney’s measure needs one more progressive vote.

Sup. Matt Haney, the author of the measure, has gone out of his way in the past few weeks to negotiate with the Mayor’s Office and try to find consensus. The initial legislation gave the seventh (and potentially swing vote) appointment to the School Board, which is independently elected. This version gives that seat to the controller, who is appointed by the mayor.

He amended the bill to make clear that the commission can’t change eligibility rules and has no authority over contracts during a shelter emergency.

But none of that was enough.

“It’s unfortunate,” Haney told me. “We worked with them to make changes, but the mayor is still against it.”

That’s not a surprise to me: The new commission would take authority away from the mayor and would open up the entire department and its operations to far more public scrutiny.

Two of the commissioners would have to be people who have experienced homelessness. Two would have to be experienced service providers.

And the commission would – like all commissions – hold regular public meetings where the public could comment on the state of the department and could require the department head to answer questions.

“This is a way to get more accountability,” Haney said.

Breed and other opponents of the plan are going to argue that a new commission will just create more delays and bureaucracy. But Haney said that “our current system leaves things to the bureaucracy.”

Another argument from Breed: This shouldn’t be in the City Charter. That’s an odd message from someone who tried to change the City Charter to eliminate oversight of new housing.

Adding a new commission by definition requires a charter amendment.

The Coalition on Homelessness supports the idea. The Homeless Emergency Services Providers Association supports it.

And so far, five supervisors support it: Haney, Shamann Walton, Aaron Peskin, Hillary Ronen, and Gordon Mar. Two of the progressives are still undecided – and neither Sup. Rafael Mandelman nor Board President Norman Yee has responded to my calls.

But this is exactly the sort of accountability measure that you would expect the progressive majority on the board to support. I don’t see how both Mandelman and Yee can oppose it without infuriating a lot of their supporters.

I am told that the mayor is putting a lot of pressure on the supes – because a ballot measure could also be seen as a referendum on how she is handling the homelessness crisis.

I have seen no polling on this, and I don’t think there is any, but I bet if you asked San Franciscans whether they think the mayor is doing a good job on homelessness, the vast majority would say no.

And if the measure gets six votes, I wonder if, and how, Breed is going to campaign against it. What’s wrong with more public input and accountability on one of the biggest problems facing the city? (Remember how the mayor opposed Prop. C, the homeless funding measure, saying we needed more accountability and an audit of how the current money is being spent? That’s exactly what Haney’s proposal would do.)

There’s only one more shot at this – if the supes can’t approve it Tuesday/23 they will miss the deadline for the fall ballot. And Mandelman and Yee are the swing votes.

UPDATE: Mandelman told me today that he is “undecided but skeptical.” He said he wasn’t sure the city needs another commission in the Charter. However, one source told me Sup. Sandra Lee Fewer is supporting the measure, which would make six votes, but Fewer has not responded to my call seeking confirmation of that.

It’s very, very clear that the mayor is trying to derail this. The vote will be a key test of the power and solidarity of the progressive majority on the board.